Staying Feminine, Defying Age, or Aging Well through Fitness

By Jeanne-Maud Jarthon, Christophe Durand

The work of Bessy (1990) has showed the transformation of fitness centers from a masculine space to a more feminine space. If there were an initial commercial logic to this change, it also occurred in step with the successful liberation of the female body on one hand, and, on the other, their adhesion to a space open to a free selection of sports practices.These “spas” have gradually evolved into gyms that offer new, diverse, trendy, and fashionable activities that suit all ages. Their public has indeed evolved as they attract “older” women. The expectation of living life in good health has indeed increased significantly in the last 20 years (INSEE, 2010). The concern with aging well (Feillet, 2012), the desire to preserve one’s image (and body) for oneself and others (Corbin, Courtine Vigarello, 2005), the need to appear “forever young” (Amadieu, 1990), the weight of the cult of youth in the media (Kaufmann, 2001)—to name a few factors among many—have led to a democratization of fitness for all ages to meet concerns about the body and its shape.In a few years, fitness has become a “tool” in the fight against aging and, for women concerned with meeting prescribed social norms, in preventing it.


  • welfare
  • age
  • aging
  • beauty
  • physical activity
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